Action Drama

Spy Game: A TIFF Review of ‘Hunt’

September 15, 2022Ben MK

As Seong Gi-hun on Netflix's Emmy-winning series Squid Game, South Korean actor Lee Jung-jae has gained international fame — an achievement usually reserved for the likes of K-pop supergroups like BTS and BLACKPINK. Now, with Hunt, Lee is stepping behind the camera as well as in front of it, as he both directs and stars in this politically charged action thriller about a pair of South Korean National Intelligence Service agents who go head to head to root out a mole within their organization.

Set in 1983 amid heightened tensions between North and South Korea, the movie centers on a plot to assassinate the president of South Korea, as part of a North Korean plan to reunify the country. But when an attempt on the president's life is thwarted by two of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency's top agents — Chief Park (Lee) of the KCIA's Foreign Unit and Chief Kim (Jung Woo-sung) of its Domestic Unit — the agency tasks both men with getting to the bottom of the scheme, the key to which involves uncovering the true identity of a South Korean spy known only as Donglim, who has been feeding highly classified information to a North Korean espionage group. As their respective investigations move forward, however, Park and Kim begin to grow increasingly suspicious about the other's allegiances, a turn of events that also threatens the life of a young woman Park has vowed to protect. And when the situation boils over, it will come down to the grit and determination of each man, as both discover that the beliefs and ideals they've been fighting for are not quite what they seem.

Suffice to say, fans of explosive, edge-of-your-seat Korean thrillers certainly won't be left wanting by Hunt, as the result delivers more than just mere hyperbole. Supremely intense, ridiculously over-the-top and brimming with spectacular, wall-to-wall action sequences, this is a film that's guaranteed to become a new genre favorite. And with Lee having just made history as the first Asian to win an Emmy for lead actor in a drama series, it's only a matter of time before more and more Western moviegoers come to know his name as well.

Hunt screens under the Gala Presentations programme at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 5 min.

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